Spaghetti alla Ortica (Nettles)

Ortica (Nettles)

I always look forward to the beginning of Spring when the nettles start growing around my garden. I once tried to rid my lawn of stinging nettles. In summer I often brush up against the plant and receive a sting. No matter how much I tried to eliminate them, they just kept coming back. Now, I let them grow in Spring and do my best to keep them cut back in Summer. At the beginning of Spring the nettles put out tender young shoots that can be cut off with a pair of scissors while wearing leather gloves. After gathering a basket of tender nettle leaves I wash and chop them for cooking. This recipe was inspired by my Italian mother-in-law who would often go to the fields to gather wild herbs for cooking.

Spaghetti alla Ortica (Nettles)


  • ¼ cup (100 g) Italian extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cups chopped ortica (nettle) leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 10 green olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 4 sardines
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • freshly ground pepper
  • grated Parmigiano cheese


Gather the nettles, wash, pour hot boiling water over the nettles, drain and chop.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile prepare all the ingredients. Pour the extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and saute until tender. Add the nettles, olives, capers, garlic and white wine. In a mortar pound the sardines into a paste, then add to the sauce. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes then reduce heat to low. When the water for the pasta is boiling add salt and spaghetti. Cook the pasta until just al dente about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss it into the sauce pan with the sauce. Toss until well coated. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmigiano cheese.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cooking  Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serve with Parmigiano cheese

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